Adele Got Me Like
Can I just say that I love Adele? Her songs can reach a place inside of me that few other artists can. This week, I was driving in the car and the song “Love in the Dark” came on. For anyone who hasn’t heard this song or needs a little refresher, it is a song about someone wanting to leave a relationship. She talks about what that looks like for her and why the relationship isn’t working anymore.
This entire song could be sung to my addiction. To acting out partners. To the old version of myself. And although most of the lyrics apply, the most meaningful lyrics to me are “I want to live and not just survive”. This phrase has been replaying in my mind all week. I’ve been thinking about how this is so incredibly true in my life today. I learned early on in my life to survive. I’ve survived a lot of really hard things. But I’m not interested in surviving any more. I want to LIVE. I want to be present in my life. I want to be mindful of the choices I’m making, not making them unconsciously or because I don’t feel like I have other options.
So how do I live and not just survive? What does that look like to me?
The first way I’ve learned to live is through the 12 steps. I’ve learned to admit my powerlessness over just about everything in my life. I’ve had to admit powerlessness over how other people view me, what they know about me, and what they are saying about me. I’ve had to admit powerlessness over wanting to be loved, wanted and valued in unhealthy ways. I’ve had to admit powerlessness over people and situations that allowed me to continue living in fantasy. I’ve had to admit powerlessness over my family and the choices they make. I’ve had to admit my powerlessness over the fantasy life I wanted.
The amazing realization for me has been that admitting this powerlessness has given me strength. The more I give up control of others, the more energy I have to focus on the one person I can control-myself. When I’m trying to control others, I’m surviving. When I admit powerlessness over others, I can live.
I’ve had to admit that my life was unmanageable. My life prior to recovery had moments of sanity, but my internal world was completely unmanageable. Surviving meant I didn’t know what I was feeling or when and why I was feeling what I was when I did. I wanted to escape at any cost, because feelings were terrifying to me. Sitting with discomfort? No thank you. I wanted to remain unaware of the world around me. Discomfort meant there was something wrong with me, and I couldn’t tolerate that. By numbing feelings, I was surviving. But I wasn’t living. Living has meant that instead of running from these feelings that I acknowledge them and allow them to be heard. Sometimes that means I’m just allowing myself to feel. Sometimes that means I share what I am feeling with another person. Both of these are scary for me, but have allowed me to live my life instead of just survive it. Admitting and recognizing unmanageability have allowed me the space to accept my reality.
Surviving for me meant that I was a victim of my circumstances. I allowed the actions of others to dictate how I felt. I felt betrayed by family members when they didn’t act in a certain way or treat me the way I wanted to be treated. I allowed that betrayal to give me permission to continue destructive behaviors. If I felt I was treated unfairly, it gave me permission to act out my hurt.
Living to me now means that I take an active part in my life. I am working on not allowing things to just happen to me, but to actively seek information. Information about myself, about my feelings, about the experiences that have shaped me into the person I am today. When someone says or does something that triggers emotion in me, I try to lean into that. I name the feelings. I look at the story I’m telling myself, and I look at ways that story has been repeated in my life. I give myself permission to feel whatever I’m feeling and I love myself through that process. Therapy, phone calls with recovery friends, 12 step meetings and reading recovery based literature helps me to gather the information I need to live.
When I was surviving, I was so concerned with what had already been and with what was going to be that I couldn’t accept life as it currently was. I was constantly trying to change or do or be different. If I could just lose ____ pounds, I would feel better about myself. If I had a bigger house, more money, more time, more _____, I would be happy. I couldn’t accept myself as I was. This didn’t stop with me. I couldn’t accept my husband as he was. If he just did ______, our life would be better. I couldn’t accept my kids and their choices. Didn’t they know if they just did ________, they would/wouldn’t feel _____? Other family members were not immune to my judgments, neither were friends or coworkers. I couldn’t accept myself or anyone else completely.
Living means I’m learning to accept that life is the way life is. As the big book of AA puts it, I’m learning to accept life on life’s terms. Accepting life doesn’t mean that it will be this way forever. It’s accepting that this is how life is at this moment. Accepting my marriage is where it is in this moment doesn’t mean that I don’t want it to change. It means, I’m accepting that this is where my marriage is. Wanting it to be somewhere different hasn’t served me well. I can accept it where it is right now. I can accept myself and where I am. I can accept my spouse and where he is. Acceptance brings me peace and healing. Most importantly acceptance gives me the freedom to take care of myself. Acceptance allows me to live in today. It allows me to be present in reality today. Today’s feelings and today’s experiences. In my journey, worrying about tomorrow hasn’t stopped it from coming. Tomorrow still comes, and I am learning accept it when it does. And in the meantime, I’ll live in today. I’ve survived yesterday, but I’ll live in today.